In making several trips to Walmart in advance of Christmas, I found myself marveling several times at the store. Here are some reasons why this retail giant may be the best single illustration of America today:
- Consumerism rules. Each Walmart has so much stuff, from groceries to auto parts to Christmas trees to dinnerware. And Americans like this stuff even more if it is reasonably priced.
- On the flip side of consumerism, how can one company coordinate all that manufacturing and shipping to get items to each store? Walmart’s rise is due in part to their logistical abilities.
- Walmart is a great place to find stuff with which to go overboard for whatever holiday is coming up. Americans love Christmas, Halloween, Fourth of July, Easter…
- Walmarts generally require customers to drive there, often due to their locations in suburban or rural areas, the need for a good chunk of land, and helping shoppers to transport all the stuff they buy.
- Because of the prices and locations, Walmarts tend to attract a diverse set of shoppers.
- The company does not let workers unionize.
- The Sam Walton story is not exactly rags to riches but it does suggest that a hard worker with some new ideas can make something big of himself.
- Everyone has to eat and Walmart is the largest grocery chain in the United States.
- It is an iconic American brand though it hasn’t exactly caught on around the world like others (such as Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Nike).
- Everyone seems to have an opinion about its merits or flaws. Still, according to the company, “Every week more than 60 percent of Americans shop at Walmart.”
- It is convenient and ubiquitous for many: “About 90 percent of Americans live within 15 minutes of a Walmart store.“
- The company’s size is hard to fathom:
“And Wal-Mart’s heft is not just financial, it’s physical too. Its 4,600+ U.S. stores occupied almost 700 million square feet. That’s roughly enough space for 11,800 football fields. That means the entire population of Buffalo, New York, could suit up, split into teams and play football against each other simultaneously in Wal-Marts across the country.
The company’s total revenue for fiscal 2016 was $482.1 billion. That’s enough to buy a gallon of milk every day for every person in Brazil for two years, based on the $2.89 price per gallon at the North Bergen, New Jersey, Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart’s costs and expenses hit $458 billion for the year, which is bigger than the budgets of all but four U.S. government departments. Here’s what the rankings would be:
1) Health and Human Services
2) Social Security
For better or worse, is Walmart America?